At The Children’s Family Trust (CFT), we value all of our audience, customers and service users, and strive to ensure that everyone accessing our website has the most positive user experience possible.
We have recently added a new accessibility tool, Recite Me, which allows users to customise our website and view it in a way that works best for you.
Here’s why web accessibility and inclusivity matters to us:
People are our priority
With our new software, we can make a difference by ensuring our children can access the information they need coming in to care in a format that is accessible to them, as well as providing our staff and foster carers with the tools to read information in a way that best suits them.
We embrace all walks of life and backgrounds
Alongside disability and literacy-based barriers to accessing information, providing information to people whose first language is not English is an important part of reaching individuals in the UK who want to provide stable and loving homes to children in care. With 1 in 10 people not speaking English as their first language, it is important that we reach these communities by allowing them to access information in a way that is comfortable and clear for them. In addition to this, in recent years we have seen a rise in the number of children coming into care who do not speak English as their first language, and as an organisation we recognise that this time is already a very difficult experience for a child or young person to go through, without having to worry about the added pressure of language barriers. With this new software, users can benefit from the real-time translation feature, which can translate our information into over 100 languages, including 35 text to speech voices.
Our Marketing and Media Manager, Jessica, commented “We are excited to be launching the Recite Me Toolbar on our website in the hope that it will make the experience for all of our users more comfortable.”
“As an organisation, we support both foster carers and children from all walks of life and backgrounds, and it is important for us to ensure that our stakeholders are receiving information in a way that suits them best. We are hopeful that adding the Recite Me toolbar will make our website function in a more accessible and inclusive way for all and allow us to reach more people.”
Guide to using Recite Me
For more information on Recite Me, check out their website here. Here’s our quick guide to using Recite Me on our website:
Our screen reader helps people who are visually impaired or neuro-divergent to perceive and understand the information on our website.
Key features include:
You can see the reader being used in this image.
Our website is customisable to a way that works for you. Recite Me supports people who are dyslexic, visually impaired or have a learning disability to change the way our website looks, so you can experience it the way it is intended.
Key features include:
The styling function has lots of different options, as shown in our example image.
Reading content online can be a challenge for some people. To simplify and support you to read our content, Recite Me provides additional reading tools.
The reading function makes small writing easy to read, as shown in our example image.
1 in 10 people don’t speak English as their first language in the UK.
By using Recite Me, you can quickly and easily translate all our website content into over 100 languages, including 35 text to speech voices.
The translation function changes everything you see on our website, as shown in our example image.
If you have any additional questions about using Recite me on our website, you can contact us on 01527 574446 or email us.
Ahead of next month’s General Election, the UK’s largest fostering and adoption charity The Adolescent and Children’s Trust (TACT), is calling on all Britain’s political parties to step up and make children in care, foster carers and care experienced young people an important part of their election promises.
To that end TACT has produced its own manifesto – Call to Action, a plan that we urge all parties include in their manifestos, to transform the life chances for children and young people in care.
TACT CEO Andy Elvin said: “TACT’s Call to Action highlights what government and local authorities should be doing to fulfil their responsibilities as corporate parents. Children and young people’s voices should always be heard in the design of policy for the care system. Unfortunately, far too often the state is not a good enough parent.”
Here are some of the actions we are calling for:
Automatic Delegated Authority for Foster Carers
Foster carers are experts on the children that they look after and should automatically have full delegated authority for all decisions about them unless there is a valid reason not to do so.
Foster Carers as personal advisors for their care experienced young people.
When young people have positive relationships with their foster carers, they should be given the option of having them as their personal adviser as a natural continuation of the foster carers’ role. This would enable foster carers and care experienced young people to continue their relationship with the financial support that will enable them to do this.
Waive or pay university tuition fees or offer a guaranteed apprenticeship for care experienced young people
Universities should guarantee undergraduate places for care experienced young people regardless of their age and financial support with a maintenance grant in place for living expenses and accommodation during term time, and outside of it.
Many young people will not wish to go to university and there should be a guaranteed apprenticeship for those care leavers. Local authorities and governmental agencies should also be offering appropriate employment opportunities.
More central government funding for Staying Put
‘Staying Put’ enables young people in foster care to remain with their carers until the age of 21. The future of ‘Staying Put’ is currently uncertain because funding is only secured until 2020/2021. Under funding and no guarantee of continuation to the scheme can leave carers unable to offer a continued home for their foster children when they reach 18.
Extend the current legislation prohibiting private for-profit companies from running child protection services to all of children social care services.
Private equity firms are increasingly present in the fostering market, buying and selling independent fostering agencies and making substantial gains in the process. More transparency and accountability is needed, with resources remaining within each provider to ensure a total focus on the needs of children and young people.
For the full Call to Action click here
Member News - Young People at Heart are recruiting a social worker and Form F assessors in Herefordshire
Dave Bailey, Fostering Manager at our new Young People at Heart office in Hereford, has experienced an unprecedented amount of interest from foster carers wishing to transfer to Young People at Heart from a number of other fostering organisations in the region, as well as applications from people wishing to become foster carers.
Dave said the not-for-profit ethos of Young People at Heart, together with our ability to provide local support, training and activities for foster carers and young people, was a huge attraction and he looked forward to welcoming more enquiries from prospective Young People at Heart foster carers, whether they were new to fostering or experienced carers wanting to transfer to the organisation.
In order to support the huge level of interest in joining Young People at Heart in the Herefordshire region, Dave said the organisation was looking to bring forward the appointment of a supervising social worker to January 2018. He invited applications from suitably qualified individuals via the link below to our recruitment partner, TOP Recruitment:
Supervising Social Worker – Herefordshire
Dave also said he would like to appoint more Form F assessors to the Herefordshire Young People at Heart family and he again invited applications from suitable qualified candidates through the following link:
Form F assessors – Herefordshire and surrounding counties
Gary Cox, who founded Young People at Heart with his wife Davina, said they were both delighted with Dave’s appointment and the immediate impact he was having on the fostering provision in Herefordshire and surrounding counties. Gary said it was a testament to Dave’s practice that a number of foster carers from his previous for-profit, venture capital backed foster care employer had contacted Young People at Heart requesting to follow Dave but added that he was equally pleased they had received enquiries from foster carers for other organisations who wanted to be supported locally and that he was particularly excited that Dave was receiving enquiries from applicants new to fostering.
When Laurie Gregory, an ex-Deputy Director of Social Services, decided to start an independent foster care organisation – he wanted to do something different.
Laurie was a foster carer himself for many years, so he had a full 360 degree understanding of the sector. Starting a ‘for profit’ agency was not an option, but he wanted to go further than simply establishing a not-for-profit organisation.
He then contacted Co-operatives UK, and plans for The Foster Care Co-operative (FCC) began to fall into place.
“Quite apart from the morality of it, I wanted to give more children the chance of family life,” Laurie said. “I instinctively did not wish to start a 'for profit' company and after meetings with my Chamber of Commerce and invaluable advice from Co-operatives UK, I chose the model of multi-stakeholder and common ownership and registered the company. We have grown slowly by bringing new people to fostering."
The Foster Care Co-operative was founded in 1999. Since then, the co-operative model has proved hugely beneficial. As there is no involvement from distant shareholders or investors, FCC’s members on the ‘shop floor’ have always been consulted and listened to. This has made the organisation ‘transparent’ and responsive to change – particularly at a policy level. It has also created a culture of greater democracy.
Simply put, FCC have given its staff who work directly with children the power to make positive change within the organisation for the good of those children.
FCC remains the only not-for-profit fostering agency operating as a co-operative in the UK. It has grown steadily and organically and now has teams situated throughout England and Wales, with offices in Malvern, Cardiff and Manchester.
It is Co-operatives Fortnight from 17th June - 1st July - an opportunity for organisations to highlight how co-operating, working together, makes a difference #coopstories
Member News: TACT - “I can remember the exact day we decided to stop talking about fostering and start doing it”
My wife Sue and I had talked about fostering for many years before taking it up seven years ago. Neither of us were raised by our birth parents, I was adopted as a baby and was very lucky to become part of a very loving family. Sadly for Sue, she had a very chaotic childhood, and was in and out of foster care for most of her early years.
We have always thought we would like to help young children probably for different reasons. I felt that I would like to give something back because I felt I had been so lucky in my childhood and Sue felt that she would like to provide the sort of care and love that her early years were so short of.
Looking back, I can remember the exact day when Sue and I decided to stop talking about fostering and start doing it. We were sat in a very empty and quiet house on the morning of the funeral of my step-father and we were talking about how the old house was always so full of life and noise, with all the children and family gathering there, but now with mum in a nursing home and the old boy having gone, it was a bit sad. We both said how lovely it would be to hear the laughter and noise of youngsters again and at that point we saw an advert in a local paper for TACT and that is how it all began.
The application process and panel meeting came as no shock or problem, the team at TACT had told us exactly what to expect and were there to help us through every stage.
When the time came to welcome our first placement we were very excited, but it has to be said we were also nervous. We learned that the young lady about to join us had been at numerous placements in the last year or so and could be described as having somewhat challenging behaviour. But after several years of school, police and court visits and appearances she came out the other end and into independence with a reasonable set of GCSE’s and a slightly less angry approach to life.
She now lives with her boyfriend and we miss her enormously. The bond between her and Sue is still very strong and we are now Grandma and Granddad to her two-year-old little girl. We have an enormous feeling of pride for her. Admittedly fostering has been very challenging at times, but when you are handed a little baby and hear the words “go to granddad”, there are simply no words!
We currently have two little men as a work in progress. One is a teenager and has been with us for six years and one a ten year old lad joined us three years ago. Both of them are long term placements and came from very chaotic backgrounds. They can at times be rather challenging, but we wouldn’t be without them.
There is just on more member of our extended family, a young lady who came to stay with us for a respite break some four years ago and has visited most years since then and still stays in touch regularly.
Sue and I are a good fostering team. While she works as a part-time hair stylist at a local hairdressing salon and I am the stay at home ‘lead carer’, we very much play an equal part in caring for the boys. We have an excellent support network in TACT and our two grown up sons who are back-up carers when needed.
Fostering is pretty much as we imagined it would be, we both have a way of planning our lives around the boys.
Probably our best advice to offer new foster carers would be to learn as much about attachment disorders as they can, and possibly more importantly, talk to people who are already fostering. Oh and hope for the best but plan for the worse.
Steve and Sue
TACT Foster Carers
Community Foster Care has welcomed Vivian Gibson to its Cumbria office.
The Placement Support Worker joins our team in Peart Road, Workington after 14 years as a family worker with Cumbria County Council.
Five of those years were spent with the looked-after children team. She was also a foster carer for two years.
“I’m enjoying being part of the CFC team and getting to know the carers and the children personally. This agency has always been well-regarded by carers for the level of support it provides – and that’s so important,” said Vivian, 46, who has lived in Workington for more than 20 years and has three grown-up children.
Registered Manager for CFC, Emma Weaver, welcomed Vivian to the team. “Her experience with the local authority and as a foster carer is invaluable and we know she’ll be a great asset,” she said.
Community Foster Care, a charity and independent agency, provides foster carers for children all over Cumbria.
Foster carers come from all walks of life and can be male or female, single, married or divorced. They must be over 25 and in generally good health.
On May 16th 2017, our South Central team opened their doors and welcomed in supporters of CFT to share in the celebration of the grand opening of their new office.
Due to rapid expansion in recent years the south region have now had to move to bigger premises to accommodate the needs of the staff and the sizeable growth of our foster carer base. Since the region initially formed in 2012, we have already had two offices moves both of which were due to the need for bigger spaces. Initially working from one small office in Basingstoke, the region then moved to bigger ground floor premises in Petersfield, before eventually moving to their new home in Waterlooville, in which they now occupy an entire building on the Briars business park. The centre has 2,000sq ft of space across two floors, and we will use the new office for foster carer training, meetings, and holding our panels and participation events. The grand opening was an opportunity for members and supporters of The CFT to come together and celebrate the success of the region and the hard work of its Foster Carers. We had an excellent turn out from Foster Carers, Prospective Foster Carers, Staff members, Trustees, Our Chairman and The CFT President, all of whom shared stories and memories of the organisation.
Speeches and cake cutting from our Chairman and President respectively, were followed by the grand office unveiling and ribbon cutting which was headed up attended by local celebrity, Steve Power. Steve is a well-known radio DJ at southern station Wave 105 Radio and kindly wanted to attend the event to show his support for the work of our charity.
We would like to thank everyone who came to celebrate this historic day with us and would like to thank all the staff who were involved in the seamless organisation of a fantastic day.
If you would like to read more about the event, you can check out this news article from the Portsmouth News here:
If you are, or know anyone interested in Fostering in the South region of England, please get in touch with us to talk to us about how we can help you take the next steps on 0300 111 1945.
Michael from the West Midlands is looking after his first young person as a foster carer. He has shared his experiences from his initial weeks as a carer and the training and support he’s received to get his fostering journey started.
Why did you decide to become a foster carer?
We had seen various documentaries and posters about young people in care and were shocked to see how many still needed foster carers and safe homes. We spoke to some couples local to us who foster with the Local Authority to get an insight into what it would be like. Then we chose St Christopher’s as my cousin has fostered with them for a number of years and recommended we give it a try.
Once we were approved we were so scared but excited at the same time. Sitting waiting for the phone to ring with news of our first young person was nerve-wracking, but we’ve landed on our feet.
Who lives in your household at the moment?
Right now we are looking after an 11 year old boy who is on the autistic spectrum. It’s our first placement so it’s all new to us! We have our moments but mostly it’s great. He is currently waiting for a school place so our priority is to get him back into education. He has met my extended family and now recognises people when we’re out in our local community, so he’s settling in well.
We’ve opened up an ISA account for him and sorted out his weekly pocket money. We’ve also registered him at a GP surgery, dentist and opticians – everything that any parent would do.
We also have a 32 year old son who no longer lives at home. We told about our decision before we started going through the application process. He gets on well with our foster child and they’ve been getting closer as they spend time together.
What is the training and support like?
Everything that I’ve done so far has been good. The first thing we did was some introductory training as part of the application process – it opens your eyes and makes you think about what it will really be like as a carer. We were under no illusions though and knew it would be a challenge as the young people are in care for particular reasons. Since then I’ve done a first aid course and started the new social pedagogy training.
There are also monthly support groups for the foster carers. It’s a mixture of people every month so there is always different people you can talk to about their fostering journeys. They tell you everything straight so you can properly compare your experiences. We’ve mainly spoken to other carers with just one foster child, but I really admire all the carers looking after two, three or four young people.
Do you have any stand out moments from fostering?
Well, we haven’t been doing it very long but my favourite things so far are when we can just go out for the day and have a good laugh together. It’s worthwhile to see him smiling and everyone at St Christopher’s is so supportive and comments on how well we are doing. We’re looking forward to what other experiences come our way!
Are you thinking about fostering? Have a chat with St Christopher's today on 0800 234 6282 or fill in an enquiry form to request a callback.
I always knew I would embrace fostering disabled children because my son had been born with severe disabilities. Sadly he died when he was just six, leaving a huge gap in my life.
My fostering journey started more than 25 years ago, when my first husband and I worked as child minders. We began offering respite to children with special needs and we so enjoyed having the children in our home. Despite having four children of our own, the house always seemed so empty when the children in our care returned to their families. So we started fostering. With such a large family, people could not understand how we were also able to also look after a disabled foster child. Fortunately, our social worker had four children herself and was very supportive, believing we could do it.
Our first placement was an eight-year-old girl with severe learning and physical disabilities, and no speech. We were told she would not live to adulthood, so we thought long and hard before she joined our family, knowing that we would ultimately be putting our family through loss in the not so far future. She was beautiful and made people smile. When she died at the age of 24 it broke our hearts, but it helped that we have such wonderful memories of her.
Our second placement was a boy aged seven with epilepsy and cerebral palsy. We had befriended his family when he was just 5 and when he went into care at the age of seven he came to live with us. Twenty years on, he still lives with us. He is happy but still needs a lot of support with his disability.
Sharing a home with children with disabilities has helped our birth children to develop into adults who have a loving and accepting approach to disabled people. We are so proud that they have all gone on to become support workers helping young people with disabilities in need of support. Two of my children are our back up foster carers, so that our foster children can remain in their home whenever my husband Neville and I need a break.
After my husband and I divorced I was a single carer for a few years, before getting married to Neville seven years ago. He has taken to fostering so well. We faced our biggest challenge in 2012 when I was diagnosed with cancer. I couldn’t bear the thought of the children moving out. We dealt with the questions asked by the children. I was extremely unwell and had very intensive treatment, but throughout all my bad days Neville supported me with keeping the children at home. Our TACT and local authority social workers were fantastic, trusting and supporting us to maintain stable family life during a very difficult situation. I am in remission now thank goodness.
Kassie joined our family when she was eight and our house was starting to struggle for bedrooms. Attics were converted and extensions were added to accommodate our large family. We built a cabin for our birth daughter and converted our garage for our birth son to live in.
Our new girl was very different to fostering boys with learning disabilities but we loved having her with us. She left at 16 to live with her boyfriend, but we remained close. Two years ago I had the pleasure of walking her down the aisle, a very proud day for me. Neville and I are Nana and Grandpa to their two boys.
Next, a four-year-old boy with learning disabilities and autism joined our family. We were only meant to have him for a weekend, but when he held my hand on the way home from school my heart melted. So he stayed. He is now 19 and we are supporting him through transition to college where he will be working towards achieving independence and life skills.
Another young boy with learning disabilities joined the family when he was eight and left two years ago when he was 18. He is still very much part of our family spending weekends, Christmas and holidays with us.
Finally, a 15-year-old girl joined the family last year. She is very bubbly and its very refreshing to have a girl in our home again.
As you can tell, fostering means everything to me. We have a large loving family and it can be hard work, but so very rewarding. We have always known a busy house full of toys, noise and love. My children call me Earth Mother.
To anyone interested in offering a disabled child a place in their home I say give it a try there is no skill just caring and being there for them.
TACT Foster Carer
Ben Sheridan was 13 when he was placed into care.
He had been living with his nan in Cheltenham who could no longer care for him because of illness.
“I was told I’d be going into care for a short period,” said Ben, now 20.
“It was a bit daunting. I had no idea what it would be like. But my social worker explained it was only for 28 days to begin with, then it would all be evaluated. So I thought I might as well roll with the punches.”
Punches were not what came his way.
The first foster carers to welcome Ben into their home were Steve and Wendy Impey who have been carers with Community Foster Care for almost 20 years and have looked after more than 15 children.
Ben’s 28-day trial period came and went. And seven years later, he is still with Mr and Mrs Impey, living independently in their annexe and making his own way in the world.
“When I first arrived, Wendy was in the kitchen and Steve was at work. Their son was 22 and living in the annexe which is now my own home. There was another cared-for child on the computer in the living room. It was like walking into an everyday household.
“I moved my stuff into my own room, and that was it.
“For the first two weeks I spent most of my time on my games console. I didn’t know anyone in Gloucester - it was the school holidays and my school was in Cheltenham.
“It was another cared-for child who dragged me out and helped me get to know people. He was 16. Now he’s 23 and like my big brother. It was through him that I made the best mates that I’ve still got today.
“When my nan got ill, I realised that everything was about to change. I had to grow up a bit quicker than most to handle the process better but it was ok. It was just circumstances - and how you handle those circumstances is what makes you the person you are.
“At the end of that first month, I was asked if I wanted to stay. I liked how things were going so I thought ‘why spoil a good thing?’
“My home with Steve and Wendy became a permanent placement. And from then on I had a pathway plan - there were meetings every six months with social workers and Community Foster Care to make sure everyone was happy.”
At 18, Ben had left school with six GCSEs and was no longer part of the care system. He moved into supported lodging (the annexe) and spent two years at Hartpury College studying for an outdoor adventure diploma.
He now has a full-time job at McDonald’s in Eastern Avenue and is a firm fixture in the Impeys’ extended family which includes two grown-up sons, two other cared-for children, Barney the dog and Skye the budgie.
Being gloomy is not part of Ben’s make-up – far from it.
“Being in foster care has allowed me to grow into the person I am today. What you get out of life depends on what you put in, and I’m a firm believer that if you want something, you have to earn it,” he said.
“I’ve tried to handle every situation as it comes. I’ve never felt the need to kick off.
“The Impeys are brilliant people. What has always stuck with me is Steve saying that if you want something, you have to work for it. Life doesn’t land on a plate.”
His advice to any child coming into care is plain: “Always have an open mind and try to be flexible.
“It’s a natural reaction to think things are going to be bad. You wonder whether your carers will like you, and whether you’ll like them. But everyone I’ve met along the way has been there to support me.
“I’ll stay in touch with Wendy and Steve for the rest of my life. I can never forget them. It’s a relationship for life.”
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